News release from United Campus Workers:
Days after the University of Tennessee system’s Board of Trustees and the Tennessee Board of Regents raised tuition and fees for their respective campuses, and following Governor Bill Haslam’s announcement of a conference on the future of higher education to be held this Tuesday, United Campus Workers-Communications Workers of America local 3865 has issued a call to Haslam to include staff, faculty, and students from the campuses in the dialogue.
While invitees include politicians and even representatives of the Tennessee Chamber
of Commerce, the Governor’s office left out invitations to those people who are at the heart of the state’s higher education system: its faculty, staff, and students.
“We’re confused and disheartened by the Governor’s choice to privilege business interests over the interests of the people who are most directly involved in the higher education system,” said Tom Anderson, President of UCW-CWA and staff at the university of Tennessee-Knoxville. “We want to be at the table because we think we’re in the best position to see what’s working–and maybe more importantly what isn’t working. Any solution is going to involve all of us, so why aren’t all of us being asked to participate in this conversation?”
UCW-CWA represents some 1,300 staff, faculty, instructional staff, student and
part-time workers statewide on nearly a dozen campuses.
“This doesn’t just need to be a closed-door conversation of the 1% and
politicians about what they want the higher education system to be. All
stakeholders need to be at the table, especially the people who work, teach, and
study at the schools,” said Anderson.
Viewing higher education as a crucial part of Tennessee’s economy and its
democracy, UCW-CWA has issued a letter to the Governor’s office urging Haslam to
include workers’ and students’ voices in any discussion about the future of the
state’s higher education systems.
“If you want to know what’s going on, you need to ask the people who are there
everyday, living and breathing it. We need representation at these meetings.
These are public institutions, paid for with public dollars and tuition money,
and their future is part of our future as a state. We all need to be at the
table, not just the Big Wigs,” said University of Memphis custodian and UCW
member Thelma-Jean Rimmer.
“What we as faculty fear is a centralized governance that standardizes
curriculum across the state, thus eliminating a faculty’s most vital role:
designing curriculum to meet the needs of the students in front of them,” said
Keith Norris, Associate Professor and 25-year faculty member at Pellissippi
State Community College. “This type of closed-door meeting sends the wrong
message and raises fears of the potential further corporatization of higher
UCW’s letter was sent on Friday, July 6, 2012, and offers to provide
representatives of staff, faculty, and student interests at the meeting planned
“We hope the Governor listens and makes a fair and democratic choice,” said
Asked for comment on the release, Haslam spokesman David Smith sent this email:
This meeting is the first of many discussions the governor will have about post-secondary education in our state that will occur with Tennesseans along with people outside of Tennessee. Bringing together representatives of the state’s higher education structure and business leaders to hear from national experts is a sensible initial step in this process.